What is an IT Service Desk?

An IT service desk is a functional unit that holistically maintains the IT service delivery–from “break-fix” to problem and change management to service level management.

What is it Service Desk infographic

The service desk against the challenges of IT support

When establishing IT service management practices in your company, one day, you will face the question: how should the users of my IT services contact the IT team? What management structure is most suitable, and what software will enable and support the new process?

Choosing the point of contact is critical to address the challenges that IT support is facing when handling customer requests, such as:

  • Collection of requests from multiple channels,
  • Routing the request to a appropriateemployee,
  • Gathering data for problem and change management,
  • Maintaining a uniform tone of voice and the quality of communication over all channels,
  • And many more.

We’ve already explained what a help desk is and the difference between a help desk and a service desk. In this article, we want to go into more detail about the latter. It is essential to understand the differences to pick the structure that meets your specific business requirements.

IT service desk: a contact point of the IT team

ITIL defines a service desk as “the single point of contact between the service provider and the users.”  Therefore it is responsible for managing incidents and service requests and communicating with the users.

This wording describes a structure somewhat similar to a traditional help desk: a contact point to reach out to resolve an issue. However, these are different things. The easiest way to determine the difference is to consider the service desk as an ITIL-influenced version of a help desk.

While help desks were developed in the 1980s to fix breaks when using IT products, service desks came in the 00s. At that moment, the digital transformation took a new twist with the rapid development of cell phones and portable computers. As a result, organizations felt a massive spike in their dependency on IT, and the amount and the quality of requests the help desk was receiving changed significantly. A simple “break-fix” job wasn’t enough anymore. IT specialists gradually built the new concept: a functional unit covering incident management, change management, problem management, asset management, and other functions. Thus, a service desk is a version of a help desk with a broader focus.

ITIL’s definition gives this functional unit a broader role while at the same time retaining the “point-of-contact” concept of a help desk. A service desk is a point of contact for IT service users which not only collects requests and fulfills the break-fix cycle like a help desk but also proactively and holistically improves IT services. In addition, it covers tools, procedures, and practices to maintain a company’s consistent and reliable IT service delivery.

The benefits of the service desk

Service desk implementation can bring significant changes to a company’s IT management and communication processes, ultimately improving the overall performance and cost-effectiveness of its IT operations.

Here are some most important benefits of service desk implementation:

  • Improved communication and collaboration between different departments and teams.
  • Increased efficiency in handling and resolving IT issues.
  • Enhanced security and compliance with IT best practices and regulations.
  • Improved user satisfaction and productivity through the faster resolution of issues.
  • Greater ability to identify and resolve recurring IT issues.

It’s important to note that a service desk, in contrast to a help desk, goes beyond incident management. For example, based on the data they have, service desk specialists will investigate frequent issues, identify problems, and initiate organizational changes.

A service desk is responsible for managing and maintaining IT services for an organization. This includes collecting feedback from users, establishing service level agreements, and providing self-service resources for users to access. In addition, a service catalog can be used to detail the full scope of an organization’s available IT services in one convenient location.

A service desk also often drives various measures aimed at service-centricity, such as automatic feedback collection from users, service level agreements, and self-service resources.

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The types of the service desk

There are several types of service desks, each with unique characteristics and advantages. Some of the most common types include:

  • Internal Service Desk: This service desk is mainly for helping the company’s workers with their IT problems. They fix issues, solve problems, and help with software and hardware. They also keep the company’s IT systems running smoothly.
  • External Service Desk: This service desk helps the company’s customers and partners with their IT problems. They answer questions, help with using products and fix technical issues. They also handle complaints and give feedback to the company.
  • Centralized Service Desk: This service desk is in charge of helping with all IT problems for the whole company. It is usually in one central location and helps different company parts work together. They make sure the company’s IT policies and procedures are followed.
  • Distributed Service Desk  This service desk helps with IT problems in different places in the company. It is usually in many locations and helps other company parts work together. They ensure the company’s IT policies and procedures are followed everywhere.

The choice of the proper management structure will be primarily determined by the organization’s specific needs and goals, such as budget, other resources, customer base, the company’s size, and the industry.

Common service desk structure

A typical service desk structure includes several teams:

  • The front-line or first-level support team is the first point of contact for customers, and it is responsible for handling basic inquiries and resolving simple issues. They may also triage more complex cases and escalate them to the appropriate team.
  • The second-level support team handles more complex issues that the first-level support team cannot resolve. They have more specialized knowledge and skills to troubleshoot and resolve issues.
  • The third-level support team handles the most complex issues requiring specialized expertise and is often composed of subject-matter experts.
  • The service desk management team leads the overall operations, including managing the front-line, second-level, and third-level support teams and ensuring service level agreements (SLAs) are met.
  • The IT operations team is responsible for maintaining and managing the IT infrastructure and systems, including servers, networks, and applications. They may also provide support to other teams as needed.
  • The IT management team is responsible for the overall strategic direction of the IT organization and may set policies and procedures.

It is common practice for a service desk to have a multi-tier support system, with each tier handling different levels of complexity and teams on all levels working together to ensure that customer inquiries and issues are resolved promptly and efficiently.

How to implement a service desk

The implementation process depends on various factors and cannot be described for all businesses. However, we think that the following measures are critical when creating a service desk:

  1. Form a competent team, remembering that a service desk employee should be:
    • Empathetic,
    • Polite,
    • Easy-going, not shy of talking to dozens of strangers every day,
    • Analytical.
  2. Collect and organize the knowledge base: Knowledge base creation might require engaging specialists other than service desk analysts, like technical writers, or even building a separate process for easy knowledge base enrichment. For example, some ITSM software enables technicians to create knowledge base articles on the fly, based on the case of a specific ticket, when closing this ticket. Try and establish simple ways to keep your knowledge base comprehensive–this might save your team hundreds of working hours without compromising customer satisfaction.
  3. Agree on the unified communication channels:
    • Create a list of contact channels to which you will pay the most attention, e.g., a phone number, an email address, and a self-service portal contact form.
    • Ensure that all users are familiar with these contact channels, and make them visible.

Evaluate and improve

Evaluating and improving the implementation of a service desk is vital for ensuring that it effectively achieves its goals and objectives and continuously improves over time. The evaluation process can help organizations save resources and make strategic decisions on IT investments while improving service delivery.

To evaluate the performance of your service desk, consider using metrics that align with your business goals. You don’t have to use this exact list, rather, we encourage you to choose the metrics that suit your business best:

  1. The convenience of contact and communication:
    • The percentage of requests raised through the unified communication channels vs. received in informal chats.
    • First reply speed.
    • Average agent reply time during request resolution.
    • The number of issues resolved by customers without the team’s assistance.
  2. Omni-channel support:
    • The proportion between the number of requests from different contact channels–to determine whether all channels are equally popular with the users.
    • Median customer satisfaction rate in different channels.
  3. High-quality communication:
    • Median customer satisfaction rate after contacting the team.
    • Conversation abandonment rate.

Alloy Software IT service desk solutions

When it comes to service desk solutions, there are a lot of options available on the market. However, we at Alloy Software believe that our solution stands out from the rest. Our highly flexible workflow management system allows you to streamline your processes and improve efficiency in a way that other solutions can’t match.

Adjustable escalation schemes and automated approvals and notifications ensure that issues are handled on time, keeping your customers satisfied. Our self-service portal empowers your customers to find answers and resolve issues on their own, reducing the workload on your team. And our robust network inventory and asset management capabilities provide your people with the information they need to resolve issues quickly.

Our solution not only addresses the unique needs of service desk teams but also offers a level of flexibility and automation that other solutions need to improve. Contact our sales team to learn more about our solutions and to schedule a demo. And you will see how our solution can take your service desk to the next level.

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